Friday, 31 October 2008

English Speeches

I spent time after school yesterday listening to the students of Shouwa Chuu go through their English speeches. I gave final pieces of advice as each group went through their speeches twice.

The competition is today, but unfortunately I have school so will not be able to attend. Disappointing, but I guess it was bad planning on the Education system's part.

I intend to take it easy this weekend. My 26" LCD doesn't arrive until next Friday so whether I go into either city or not this weekend will not change my desire to spend next weekend at home, making the most of my new setup. ;)

This morning, I need to plan for the classes I will be taking this afternoon. It's a good thing there are resources out there that I can draw upon. I haven't been given any guidelines for what I should be doing. Maybe encourage the kids to be creative rather than falling back on some game that they will only get sick of quickly?


Wednesday, 29 October 2008

My Anime List

The new anime season started a few weeks ago. I posted the anime I was watching a year ago and so will put up a quick summary of what I am watching now.

To start with, Naruto Shippuuden and Bleach are still going strong. Bleach finally got back to its core storyarc a couple of weeks ago. The episodes themselves have been somewhat repetitious and uninteresting, but there are moments of humour and there has been a little action. I just want to see the story through.

Naruto has been very emotional recently. Asuma was killed by some Akatsuki bastards. It was hard to hold back the tears. :o Incidentally, Asuma was the third Hokage's son. The third Hokage died during Orochimaru's attack on the hidden leaf village, Konoha, back during the original Naruto series a few years ago. Now we are going to get another funeral, I guess.

Clannad -- After Story is turning out to be just as good as the original series. It has even more humour in it and the animation is still just as gorgeous: very solid and colourful, and the characters are all nice looking.

Kidou Senshi (Mobile Suit) Gundam 00 2nd Season. Unfortunately, the third episode has not been subbed for this, so I am stuck waiting. This series is set four years after the events that transpired in the first season, where Celestial Being were trying to remove all war from the world. Setsuna's uber gundam, Exia, undergoes a major upgrade and there is a new threatening organisation: A-Laws (the Japanese say "ah" Laws). Oh, and Lockon's younger brother shows up -- and he looks just like Lockon Stratos! (Lockon died at the end of Gundam 00).

Rosario + Vampire Capu 2. "Capu chu" is the sound that Moka makes when she bites Tsukune's neck. This slightly ecchi anime is hilarious, if lacking a little in graphical quality.

ef - A Tale of Melodies. Still very artistic, both musically and graphically. It is set in both the past and present, the present being slightly after the parallel storylines of the original series. So far it is turning out to be as interesting as its predecessor.

New Series
To Aru Majutsu no Index (A Certain Magical Index). Index is a girl with perfect memorisation. She has memorised 103,000 (juuman sanzen) grimoires that the Church of England have locked away, but they take up 85% of her memory, so once each year she has to undergo a memory wipe so that her brain doesn't fill up and overflow, killing her.

So far it is proving to be pretty cool, with the mix of magic and technology (espers) in a city comprised almost entirely of students and the pursuit of study. The main protagonist is a young guy whose right hand anulls magic and esper attacks. He finds Index and swears to protect her from anyone that is pursuing her for the locked away grimoires.

I think that about sums up what is in my current listing. I hope that more episodes of Gundam 00 2nd will come out eventually. I want to continue through the storyline.

Oh, and if I haven't mentioned it before, don't come to Japan and claim to be "otaku". If I have mentioned it before, then you know it has negative connotations. At least here. So only use it at home, m'kay. ;)



Now that I have started on and am keeping up to date with this first textbook of the Clair beginners' course in Japanese, I am trying to speak Japanese where and when I can. I still don't understand much but I continue to learn and improve.

The book is divided into weeks and each week is divided into five sections. This means that if I do one section each day of the week, I will stay on top of it all. Each section so far has been quite small and most of it is recap, but it gives me the opportunity to go over what I read more than once and to repeat the drills that are at the end of each section. Repetition stimulates memorisation.

One interesting thing I found out yesterday was regarding Japanese dates. I have mentioned before that when denoting the year, the Japanese use both the Gregorian calendar and their own Imperial system. Each period has its own name and each period starts anew at year one. (see: Comparisons).

Currently, we are in the 20th year of the heisei period. Therefore, in some instances, this year is called heisei nijuunen (nijuu = 20). In other cases it is nisenhachi (sen = 1,000).

What I found interesting was that last period was called the Shouwa period. I teach in the nearby town of Shouwa on Thursdays (same kanji as the Imperial period). The previous period was called Taisho (once again, exact same kanji). Wait a sec, I live in Taisho!

Before Taisho was the Meiji period. This is well-known by anyone that has looked into Japanese history, as a lot happened during the Meiji period, which was during the 19th century.

Pretty crazy that these two periods are named the same as the towns where I teach and live, huh.

Today, I took a couple of classes at Iejigawa (another town with the kanji / word for river at the end). The first class was unorganised -- ichi-ninensei (1st and 2nd graders). I think there was a communication problem because I didn't realise I was supposed to have planned something. It sort of worked out as we went through aisatsu (greetings) with the children pretending to be doubutsu (animals). I also incorporated a game with Halloween shashin (pictures) to fill in the rest of the time.

I was given an entire period to plan for the second lesson, which was with the san-rokunensei (3rd to 6th graders). I made up two large sheets with the alphabet on them (nice and colourful).

The first part of the lesson was briefly recapping aisatsu (good morning, etc) with the kids. We then played Vanishing Man with the same Halloween pics I used with the ichi-ninensei. After that, I played a running around game that had four of the pictures in four places. The kids had to run to the correct picture when it was called and then get back to the middle to touch a jack-o-lantern bucket. The last one to run to the correct picture and back was out.

You can't go wrong if you make kids run, lol.

We planned my next visit, which isn't until the start of December. This time I will be organised!


Saturday, 25 October 2008

From the Mountains to the Rivers

On Thursday, I was asked to stay late -- almost until 5pm -- to assist a few students with their English speeches. I mostly helped with pronunciation and encouraged them to continue practising, so that they might memorise perfectly each part they have to recite in the speech competition next month.

Small things like this are no problem. To have to stay later at school from time to time, or having to stick around in the office past 4.30pm poses no issue whatsoever. Going over and above what your "contract states" is a part of being a respectable person. I hope that any extra involvement with students at either of the chuugakkou will reflect positively on my desire to see them all excel at English.

Yesterday, I went to Kitanokawa shougakkou (elementary school). Kita is Japanese for north -- the kanji used is easily recognisable. Kawa means river. Around here, a lot of places have kawa or gawa (a variant of kawa) in them. The Shimanto river (shimanto-gawa) is well known to a lot of people in Japan, and is regarded as one of the most pristine rivers.

The more I learn about various words, such as mountain and river, the more placenames make sense. Perhaps one day I will be able to read the recommended 2,000 kanji. ^^

My class with the gonensei and rokunensei (5th and 6th graders) wasn't that great. Even with a Japanese explanation of Vanishing Man, it still took me 5-10 mins to clarify how this simple game worked. I had Japanese instructions specialy written up to avoid such frustration but they didn't seem to make much difference. I don't get why people find such a simple game so hard to grasp. Possibly a cultural difference?

My class with the ichinensei (1st graders) however, was nice. We went over jikoshoukai (introductions), especially focusing on "How are you?"; "I am good / great / sad / cold...". the kids enjoyed the English input and the teacher really cares about the kids. I also gave them some Halloween colouring in pictures, which they appreciated.

Halloween is a pretty big thing in Japan. They have adopted the Americans' take on this festival that is steeped in a jaded past. Regardless of how much people try to explain away the druidic, dark nature of the origins of this hollow celebration, it does have a real beginning; even if a part of that beginning has Christian roots (such as trick or treating). But even this has been turned into simply a commercial endeavour.

Making a big deal of the dangers of Halloween and highlighting the reality of spiritual forces won't change the public view of it as a harmless time of fun. It is a choice not to involve yourself in accepting the rituals associated with the festival. But to do so for the sake of kids is, I think, an obligation. As Japan accepts Halloween, I don't feel that there is any harm in entertaining the idea from a purely symbolic standpoint. Degree of involvement is a choice.

Spiritual forces are a reality and it would be well to remember that there are strongholds in this world, and powers that only seek to harm. So long as we are mindful of what is there and refuse to embrace the spirit behind any form of darkness, things like Halloween and what they may represent are not a threat to spiritual growth or the foundations of your faith.

I don't agree with Halloween; I don't agree with the desensitised concept of witchcraft, spiritualism and medium interaction. What I can't argue against is the harmlessness of innocent children wishing to just enjoy themselves with something different. There are other ways to celebrate this time of the year, not all of them a blind acceptance of something with sinister roots.

Halloween has changed from its original meaning to something very commercial anyway. That's not to say that because it has changed its meaning it no longer has a spirit attached to it. There is definitely no way that a Christian should accept such a celebration in its base form. However, even looking past the scary themes and seeing it as simply another excuse to sell goods and candy, there is still a pervasive tone of spiritual disharmony.

A truly hallowed evening is much more preferable to one where ghosts and ghouls are turned into costumes and the powers of magic become simple gimmicks.

I didn't mean for this post to turn into a rant against Halloween. I may never accept it as a decent celebration -- anything that takes what is real and dangerous and turns it into harmless fun is blinding participants to the fact that there is a reality of danger and there are elements and forces in this world that should never be interacted with -- but I can still retain my beliefs, have my opinions and play along on a harmless level for the sake of those whose awareness does not encompass more than the physically obvious.

On Friday afternoon, I took nenkyu (time off) to sort out some books in the JCF library. As the Jet Christian Fellowship librarian, it is my job to ensure that the books are kept track of and that everything is categorised. I updated the booklist and will have it uploaded to the website so that members can request books to be sent out to them.

Michael and I are probably going into Kochi city tomorrow. I keep intending to get my hair cut, but never find the right opportunity to do so. I'm torn between growing it long for Winter and cutting it all off so it isn't in my face. At least a trim would neaten it up; I just have to find the right establishment I can trust to take care of it.


Wednesday, 22 October 2008

Kindergarten Picnic Lunch

Laurel, Candice and I joined my town's kindergarten for a treasure hunt / picnic this morning. The kids were divided into three groups and each group took a different route, gathering map pieces along the way. We ended up at a historical building, where they were told a story. After that, we walked to a nearby temple, where the priest did a dance to some taiko drumming. The kids were then able to have turns joining in. I tried my hand at the drumming. ;)

We had an early lunch, then walked to the shougakkou (elementary school). There was a treasure chest sitting in the middle of the playground. After opening it to find snacks inside, I carried it all the way back to the kindergarten amidst the procession of kids. The snacks were then distributed. Exciting stuff when you are four or five.

All in all, it was a nice way to spend the morning. Japanese kids are so cute. :o

Spent the rest of the day researching LCD TVs and reading forums.


Sunday, 19 October 2008

As Promised

I had Tuesday off, but didn't do anything very productive. The rest of the week was just teaching, as usual. Friday was nice. I went back to Wakaigawa shogakkou (elementary school), which has very small classes. It was a little more successful than my first time there; especially with the youngest kids, whom I had make name tags. I believe it went well.

This weekend, Michael and I went to both cities. On Saturday, we travelled up to Kochi. I bought a 4Gb Toshiba Gigabeat MP3/Video player. We watched a movie at the Aeon (pronounced "eon") mall cinema, Eagle Eye. We both thought it was a good movie. I guess I just like action movies.

We had dinner in Kochi and travelled back to Taisho quite a bit later than we have before when we have gone to Kochi city.

Today, we went over to Nakamura. We looked around at a few places and had lunch at a cafe.

We stopped in K-town (Kubokawa) on our way home. I bought a desk, which I had delivered to my place. It arrived about half an hour ago. I need to get a better chair, but this dining chair will suffice until I find a suitable replacement.

As promised, following are some photos from the Tokyo Game Show. Because taking pictures and video of any of the stalls was forbidden, the images that I captured capture more of the spirit of the show than any of the games. So to speak. ;)

I will edit the small amount of video that I took and upload it to YouTube at some point.

Final Fantasy Dissidia for PSP

How colourful

Christmas came early?


Orange is in this year

What poster?

Sega girl+cat

What can I say...


Rawr, look at my book


Argh, the light!

I told you orange was in

Girls play too

We come in threes

In threes we come

Anyone wanna buy a phone?

Arigato Gozaimasu

Cute ^^


Saturday, 11 October 2008

A Day in Review

Tokyo Game Show: Saturday, 11 October 2008

The day dawned bright and... wait, that's not right. It was drizzling this morning; albeit somewhat lightly and sporadically.

And thus the saga begins.

I took a bus from outside the Toyoko Inn, Makuhari, where I am staying this weekend. Makuhari Messe, the location of the Tokyo Game Show, is just over ten minutes from the hotel.

Arriving at the venue, I joined the sea of people that appeared to be headed in the right direction. More of an undulating snake than a sea, we wended our way -- multiple ningen abreast -- around the Messe centre and towards the entrance. I snagged a ticket on the way past the ticket booths. It appeared that my fellow snaking patrons already possessed this all important document that would allow entry into the Makuhari Messe core.

After a brief security check (they didn't find the pipe bombs stashed in my backpack), I eventually made it inside. I'm pretty sure I was the only gaijin sporting an umbrella, too. Speaking of foreigners: I'm sure that 99% of gaijin at the event were American. Go figure.

Anyway, upon entering, one is overwhelmed with the mass of people moving aimlessly around. It is an incredible atmosphere, with sound permeating the air, myriad stalls set up across the expanse, and hot Japanese girls dressed in their various, company colours. That each "uniform" consisted of short skirts, even shorter tops and knee-high boots did not surprise me one bit. Neither did the fact that the girls wearing such sexy attire had very attractive bodies. In troth. Pictures to come. XD

Speaking of pictures, it was forbidden to take any form of media at any of the stalls and displays. Anything that pertained to games yet to be released had signs that signified you were not allowed to take photos or video. I was reprimanded twice for attempting to film "off-limit" footage. :p

I spent the better part of the morning absorbing as much as I could in this sea of gaming goodness. Waiting in queues to try out games probably took a good deal of my time throughout the day.

I saw the stall for the upcoming PS3 / Xbox 360 first person action game, Mirror's Edge. It looks like a good game, from what I've seen in the previews. Now it was my chance to have some hands on -- albeit limited time. After waiting in the queue for some time, I finally had the PS3 controller in hand. Unfortunately, they wouldn't allow me to invert the Y-axis, so I spent a good deal of my play-time looking at either the sky or the ground (and falling to my death), as I tried to adjust my brain to what I would consider to be a backwards Y-axis control.

Despite the setback, and my seeming n00bness, I did complete the demo. It was something I had seen before, but to experience it firsthand gave me a better assessment of the game. It will be pretty cool to play, from the looks of things; quite a bit different from the average "shooter". If I do get a console (or consoles), I am not sure that it would be a definite purchase. But it would be fun to play through, all the same.

Next, I stood in line to tear up the streets in Need for Speed Undercover. It was quite a long wait to finally get that PS3 controller in my hand. I won't say it was definitely worth the wait, as this game is very similar to Most Wanted (even the graphics are not much better, unfortunately). However, it was fun, as the NFS games tend to be -- and they have added car damage. I completed the objective my second time through: cause $15K damage to public property and then evade the cops. Not bad for an out of practice racer.

After some wandering around, just absorbing the sites and sounds, I felt hunger pangs draw me towards the food area. Somehow, the table I was standing at to eat ended up consisting all of foreigners. So I took it upon myself thence to hang out with a couple of American college students for a while.

We checked out the Playstation centre. There were some pretty cool looking game previews that were shown on the big screen, before a presentation of Little Big Planet (incidentally, a game that does not appeal to me at all). White Knight looks pretty cool. Too bad I didn't see a preview of FFXIII. That is perhaps one of my most anticipated current-gen games.

After looking around some more, I wandered off by myself to check out Square Enix properly. There was mostly DS crap happening on the screen, but I was drawn in by the remake of Chrono Trigger. Natsukashii! The artwork at the Chrono Trigger stand is so obviously Toriyama. Dragonball similarities abound.

I had seen the preview for the 360 game, The Last Remnant, a couple of times during the day, so decided that I should give the game some hands on. Its queue was by far the longest wait -- probably because each group was given 15 minutes of play-time with the game.

When I finally sat down to play, of course I was completely lost -- the important stuff is all in Japanese. Had I been able to grasp the fight scheme I may have done better my first time around -- but I went and got my party wiped when I tried taking on some dragon-like beasties.

Aesthetically, the game is pretty swish. It looks very polished, and from what I can gather of the story, it seems to have quite a bit of depth. The fighting system is different from anything I have encountered in an RPG. Thankfully, it is turn-based. However, I had no idea what was going on when it came to the fights. I know that the game would have been easier in English, but even then it would have been rather overwhelming, considering how much seemed to be going on at once. There appeared to be quite a lack of fight control; but it could just be my failing to grasp how to play.

The occasional need to press one of the controller's buttons during one of your characters' attack sequences is a nice touch. This game will be well worth checking out; and I'm sure that starting from the beginning, you would be eased into its battle sequence style a lot more gradually.

Wandering around again, I realised that it was nearing the end of the day. I zoned in on a few spots that were interesting: the Sega area; a display about a Wii Naruto game (with characters from the current story arc! Video to come); and the hot Japanese girls that were all over the place were kind enough to pose for a few photos (more often than not, there were already multiple people taking photos of them).

I will upload photos and video when I get back home. For now, that is the end of my day in review. It was an amazing experience. Very tiring, but worth flying up here to Chiba to see with my own two eyes. I definitely want to buy at least a PS3, but also probably a 360 (eventually). It is time I got back into console gaming; and appealing console games there are -- and will be -- in abundance!


Friday, 10 October 2008

Tokyo Game Show 2008

This weekend:

Tokyo Game Show 2008!


Friday, 3 October 2008

A Week in Review

On Monday, I had no school, so I got some errands done. I also made a ninja mask from some cloth I got in K-town. We will film our short movie this Saturday.

Tuesday was wet. I spent the day at Tokawa chuugakkou (junior high).

I have been watching the new seasons of Stargate Atlantis and Smallville, as well as playing a lot of WoW and watching anime (staying up to date with Naruto and Bleach, and watching slightly older, finished anime such as Full Metal Alchemist). The new season starts next week, so I will begin watching three or four more series while they are still airing on tv.

On Wednesday, Candice and I were both posted at Iejigawa shougakkou (elementary). We did introductions and played a few games with the kids. I had lunch in K-town and came back out to the office in Taisho for the rest of the working day.

Yesterday was a regular day at Shouwa chuugakkou. I must say, I like teaching there more than I do at Tokawa. Phil told me that he felt the same way. I think it is a combination of environment, students and staff. Nothing wrong with Tokawa -- most of the students are good in class and the teachers are friendly -- but it just feels brighter at Shouwa and I feel that I have a lot more involvement in the classroom.

Today, I was at Kubokawa shougakkou. It is quite a large school. I took two classes of yonnensei (fourth graders), both of which had about 25 kids. After my introduction in the first class, I played Bullrush and Stuck in the Mud with the kids outside. With the second class, we played Midnight outside. The games worked really well once they understood them, and I know that they all had a lot of fun.

Now it's the weekend. We plan on filming all of the scenes for our movie tomorrow, and I will probably spend Sunday learning how to edit both film and music. We will also need to record the dialogue separately from the film and edit that in, as well. If it doesn't work out, we will flag entering it into the contest and just complete it for the sake of doing a comedic short film. It's all good practice. :)